Amid COVID-19, Health & Wellness Offerings Get Renewed Focus

ROCKVILLE, MD—With the coronavirus pandemic affecting many aspects of the hospitality industry, Hotel Business spoke with Todd Walter, the new president of WTS International, a provider of management and consulting services to spa, fitness and lifestyle facilities, to get his take on the current state of health and wellness.

Obviously, a lot has changed in the world since the COVID-19 pandemic began. How do you think the areas of health and wellness have changed? More than anything, I think the pandemic has increased people’s awareness of and attitudes toward their own health and wellness. Focusing on health and wellness is a conscious, proactive choice. For those of us in the industry, we think of health and wellness comprehensively to include body, mind and spirit.

The “body” incorporates all aspects of physical health (e.g., aerobic exercise, strength training, nutrition, diet, etc.). The “mind” addresses mental and physiological brain health (e.g., cognitive training, memory retention, decision-making/impulse control). The “spirit” speaks to what it is to be a human being (e.g., social awareness, mindfulness, gratitude, relationships, interconnectedness).

A silver lining to the pandemic is that it has given us time to focus on these areas. It has forced physical distancing, but it has also forced innovation and challenged us to find new ways of doing things. As an example, the likes of Peloton and The Mirror have allowed us to realize the social aspects and benefits of group exercise while being physically isolated at home. Apps and podcasts like Headspace address areas of meditation and mindfulness.

Perhaps most important, the pandemic has afforded us the time to reengage with our families and those immediately around us…to focus on what is truly important. Whether it’s trading sourdough bread starters and baking, raised-bed and patio gardening, or simply planning and preparing family meals, the pandemic has allowed us to socially engage and to reconnect with ourselves, our family members and our friends in meaningful ways.

Have you done any work to change your spas and fitness centers to accommodate social distancing? What have you done? We have implemented comprehensive procedures and physical distancing guidelines to ensure the health and safety of our guests and team members. From enabling touchless check-in and checkout, to reducing physical station capacity, to enhanced and more frequent sanitation, to providing personal protective equipment to staff and guests, we are doing everything we can to ensure people’s safety while still providing the experience and benefits our guests and members expect to receive when visiting one of our spas or fitness centers.

How important do you think it is for the hospitality industry to offer health and wellness offerings, especially in light of the pandemic? History has demonstrated that a focus on health and wellness in hospitality can be and is a brand differentiator. More than a decade ago, STR published statistics that showed hotels that introduced spas and wellness programming increased their overall occupancy levels, ADRs, and RevPAR in the period immediately following the introductions. In short, there is a consumer psychographic that chooses where to stay based on a hotel’s health and wellness offerings, and these consumers are willing to pay a premium for them.

The pandemic has severely challenged business travel and tourism. I believe a hotel’s health and wellness offerings will be even more important in the consumers’ decision-making process on where to stay in the post-pandemic world; health and wellness experts like WTS can help hotels curate these offerings for their guests.

You have recently joined WTS International. What do you hope to accomplish with the company? WTS was founded 47 years ago by Gary Henkin and enjoys a global reputation as the “go-to” resource in anything health- and wellness-related in the hospitality, fitness and residential lifestyle industries. From concept development, to design, to facility management, WTS helps operators and owners grow their top and bottom lines, all while delivering exceptional experiences to our client companies’ guests and members.

In joining WTS, I am joining Gary and the rest of the WTS team in helping to build better lifestyles. Building on the solid foundation of a 47-year history and the experience and expertise of our approximately 2,500 team members, I hope to contribute to our already-proven success, to help build upon our existing foundation and to ensure we have infrastructure in place to support our accelerated growth initiatives.

Is there anything else you would like to add? We are living through unusually challenging times. These challenges, however, give us the opportunity to rethink what we do and how we do it. Perhaps most important, the pandemic lets us reflect on why we do what we do and what is truly important. I am incredibly excited to be joining the WTS team and to help further our mission of building better lifestyles.